SENATOR THE HON. CONCETTA FIERRAVANTI – WELLS
Minister for International Development and the Pacific - ASEAN Day Reception Address
Well thank you very, very much Ambassador. Thank you so much for the very, very kind invitation to join the celebration here of the ASEAN family. I’d like to extend to you a very warm welcome to Australia and your ASEAN colleagues have spared you no time in also making you Chair of the ASEAN Canberra Committee and of course we look forward to working with you in both capacities.
I am delighted to be here at the High Commission of Malaysia, our new ASEAN country coordinator. We look forward to working closely with you and your government, High Commissioner, over the next 3 years.
It’s a great honour to represent the Australian Government here this evening.
And can I congratulate ASEAN on its 51st anniversary and for Australia, the countries of ASEAN are more than just neighbours. We share not just a sub-region but also many thousands of family ties, cultural ties and friendships.
Around 900,000 Australian citizens and residents are either born in Southeast Asia or claim Southeast Asian ancestry.
This diaspora lends a natural affinity to our relationships and has become part of the very identity of Australia. Many citizens of ASEAN countries visit Australia as tourists and many more study here as students.
Last year over 100,000 young people from ASEAN countries studied in Australia and of course while studying here have built, I know will build life-long friendships.
One of the most fascinating and one of the most enjoyable parts of my visits as Minister for International Development and the Pacific is when I go to a country and I meet the students who have studied in Australia, and of course their wonderful ties, their often long standing friendships that they have made are just wonderful. And the enthusiasm with which they remember their time here at university is very, very good so we’re very, very pleased about that. But of course apart from these personal ties, we share intrinsic economic links and we are working together to improve connectivity.
Australia was pleased to support the formulation of the Master Plan on ASEAN Connectivity, because we know our prosperity directly flows from Southeast Asia’s prosperity.
The success of the ASEAN-Australia-New Zealand Free Trade Agreement is a case in point.
Our high quality agreement has seen trade between Australia and ASEAN exceed $100 billion in 2016-17, surpassing the value of our trade with the United States or Japan.
Ladies and gentlemen, Australia and ASEAN are also friends that pull together in the face of adversity.
Regrettably we have seen that adversity. We stand in solidarity with the Government and peoples of Indonesia, given recent developments in Lombok, and with Laos PDR as you respond to recent natural disasters in your countries.
These are the tragedies that we are seeing now but we have seen other countries in ASEAN face similar disasters in past years.
And I have seen, I have had the privilege of seeing firsthand cooperation between Australia and the countries of Southeast Asia and what we are doing together.
For example, recently I visited the Philippines where we are providing technical assistance to the government to improve and assist in the improvement of the quality of education and increased support in peace, stability and development in Mindanao.
In June, I opened our new chancery in Myanmar, a country Australia continues to support on its journey to national peace and reconciliation.
These are just two examples of where Australia’s Overseas Development Assistance, is assisting and contributing to promoting prosperity, reducing poverty and enhancing the stability in Southeast Asia.
I am pleased that in 2018-19 our regional and bilateral development investment in Southeast Asia will be about $1AUD Billion.
I saw the common purpose between Australia and ASEAN on display at the Australia-ASEAN Special Summit in Sydney.
We engaged on a wide range of mutual interests, from people smuggling and cyber concerns, to human rights and disarmament.
At the Counter-Terrorism Conference we agreed on practical initiatives to work together to combat the scourge of terrorism in our region, a threat to which none of us is immune.
Australia, which became ASEAN’s first dialogue partner in 1974, has always recognised ASEAN’s central role in our region, a role that is now more important than ever.
ASEAN convenes the forum in which we discuss shared challenges and determine joint actions.
ASEAN’s outstanding achievement over the last 51 years has been its contribution to the fundamental principles on which the region has developed.
As our recent Foreign Policy White Paper makes clear, no long term foreign policy objective is more important to Australia than those enduring principles which we share.
Australia’s vision is for an Indo-Pacific region that is secure, that is open, that is inclusive, that is prosperous and above all that is resilient.
A region that promotes an international rules based order in which the rights of all states, large and small, are respected.
These are principles I think we all share and we all cherish.
We are working to realise them with our partners in ASEAN, as neighbours, and as friends.
Can I thank you for joining us this evening and thank you very much for your kind attention.